BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) — A Massachusetts man was charged Wednesday with one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists abroad, the acting U.S. attorney for Massachusetts said Wednesday.
Tarek Mehanna, 27, of Sudbury, Massachusetts, traveled overseas, sought training from the Taliban, wanted to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq and hoped to kill one or two members of the executive branch of the U.S. government, said Michael K. Loucks, the acting U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.
Loucks did not name those potentially threatened but said they never were in danger.
The suspect and his co-conspirators also had discussed an attack on at least one U.S. shopping mall, Loucks said. However, that idea stalled and is not included in the conspiracy charge, said Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman in the U.S. attorney’s office.
Mehanna and the others were unable to get automatic weapons to carry out the mall attack, Loucks said.
The complaint affidavit alleges that Mehanna and co-conspirators sought to participate in “violent jihad against American interests and … would talk about fighting jihad and their desire to die on the battlefield.”
“The complaint further alleges that the co-conspirators attempted to radicalize others and inspire each other by, among other things, watching and distributing jihadi videos.”
The videos Mehanna obtained and watched included shots of U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, Loucks said. There also were videos showing the mutilation of the bodies of U.S. service members who had been killed in Iraq, he added.
Mehanna was arrested a year ago after being accused of lying to FBI agents in a terror investigation, but the latest charges are more serious, Loucks said.
Mehanna and co-conspirators planned trips overseas in an effort to join training camps and kill American soldiers, Loucks said. He and others traveled to Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen and sought training from groups including the Taliban, he said.
A federal complaint alleges that the conspiracy began in or about 2001 and lasted until about May 2008.
During that time, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Mehanna conspired with others to provide material support and resources to carry out “a conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country, and extraterritorial homicide of a U.S. national.”
One of their plans was to attack at least one U.S. shopping mall in a random shooting spree, but that did not happen because they couldn’t get the assault weapons they wanted, Loucks said. He didn’t name the mall.
Loucks said the logistics involved assaulting multiple entrances of the mall. They had determined the steps they would take when first responders arrived.
If convicted on the material support charge, Mehanna will face up to 15 years of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
“I think we’re satisfied that we know every member of this group,” the attorney said. “We do not believe that there are any terrorist cells in this area.” He said a like-minded colleague had fled the United States.
Mehanna was arrested in November as he was about to board a flight at Logan International Airport in Boston, Loucks said.